THE SECOND COMMANDMENT
2. Exodus 20:4-6: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
The second commandment is similar to the first. In essence, it is a warning against falling for Satan’s deceptions through the idols by which the gods are represented. Evil angels have always fooled people into making images in the form of created things, the most common being animals like birds (Thoth, Horus, Isis, Hermes): cattle (Osiris, Baal): snakes (Kaliya, Dengei, Quetzalcoatl): and fish (Dagon). These are just a few examples. These gods are in the “likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”
The gods, no matter what their appearance or physical expression, always teach the same thing: the moral law of reward and punishment (Yin and Yang, Karma) and the immortality of the soul. When the Creator, the “I am,” who is the true God, says that we are not to bow down to them nor serve them, He is warning us to stay away from Satan and the merciless principles of his kingdom.
God’s next words, which on the surface appear like a threat, are actually a reference to “the wrath of God:”
…for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.
Children learn from their parents and ancestors. Generations follow their parents’ gods simply because of tradition. They learn from their ancestors the gods’ way of thinking and being—merciless and strife-filled.
God grants all the freedom to worship whomever we will, but eventually we must reap what we sow. The consequences of our choices and actions cannot be ascribed to an arbitrary act of God. Three or four generations is not an arbitrary number put out there by God either. Apparently, three or four generations is what it takes for a group of people to become solidified in their ways. In this case, to pass completely under Satan’s control—to be entirely under his jurisdiction.
God shows mercy unto “thousands” of those who love Him and keep His commandments. How are we to interpret all this? Does this mean that God shows favoritism toward His followers, and shuts off those that turn away from Him? Or… could it mean that God shows mercy to all, but only those who choose to follow His principles of mercy, live in a state of mercy—they receive it from God and in turn give it to their fellow human beings?
When God says that He visits the “iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation,” could He be describing a generational curse that is passed on to us from our ancestors and which, if we don’t end the cycle, we will pass on to our descendants as well?
Those who hate God and all that He stands for cannot help but to fall into this category, since there are only two choices in the world: God’s ways or Satan’s ways.
The third commandment has been grossly misunderstood by most believers. But as we delve into it, we will see that it is, again, a warning to stay away from the gods.
3. Exodus 20:7: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
What does it mean to take God’s name in vain? Many have interpreted this to mean that we are not to use the word “God” as a swear word, or to use His name carelessly, disrespectfully. This is very true, and anyone who comes to see God’s goodness will cease to do that. But there is a much deeper meaning here. Understanding the meaning of two Hebrew words will help us see it. We need to know what the words “name” and “vain” mean in a biblical context—again, allowing the Bible to define its own words for us.
In Hebrew, the word “name” refers to position, character, authority. Thus, to take the “name” of God in vain not only has to do with using the actual word “God” in inappropriate ways, but it also has to do with doing something that shouldn’t be done to the character of God—that something is to take it in “vain.” What then, does the word “vain” mean in the Bible? Strong’s definition reads:
Vain—in the sense of desolating; evil (as destructive), literally (ruin) or morally (especially guile); figuratively idolatry (as false, subjectively), uselessness (as deceptive, objectively; also adverbially in vain): – false (-ly), lie, lying, vain, vanity.”
The Hebrew word “vain” has virtually nothing to do with our modern understanding of what “vain” is. In the Bible, “vain” is not sitting in front of a mirror looking at oneself, or taking endless selfies. Rather, the word “vain” is connected to the desolation, evil, moral ruin, falsehood and lies that come with idolatry.
Psalm 139:20 explains very well what it means to take the name of God in vain in a biblical sense. It says:
For they speak against You wickedly; Your enemies take Your name in vain (Psalm 139:20).
The apostle Paul also knew the Biblical meaning of the word vain. In Acts chapter three we see him ministering in Lystra. While there, he cures a man who had been a cripple from his mother’s womb, saying “Stand up straight on your feet!” And he leaped and walked” (Acts 14:10). Notice what happens next:
And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, and saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them (Acts 14:11-18, emphasis added).
Paul told the people to turn from “vanities” to the “living God.” The vanities he was referring to were the gods Jupiter and Mercurius, who were Roman versions of the ancient gods of Egypt, Babylon, Greece, etc. In Greece these gods were called Zeus (Jupiter) and Hermes (Mercurius).
We have already seen the meaning of the Hebrew word for “vanity.” The meaning of the Greek word used here, mataios, is similar:
empty, that is, (literally) profitless, or (specifically) an idol: – vain, vanity (Strong’s Concordance).
Therefore, to speak “wickedly” “against” or about God, which means to confuse His character with that of the gods, is to say things about Him that are not true—this is what it means to take His name in vain. Biblically speaking then, to take the name of God in vain means to ascribe to God a character that does not belong to Him. It means to cast Him in a false light, to attribute to Him the evil, wicked, destructive, mixed character traits of Satan and his angels. It means to get Him confused with the reward and punishment character of the gods who are worshipped through idolatry. It means to ascribe to Him the character traits of the idols, which represent the gods, who all, ultimately, are manifestations of Satan.
Wherever the gods are worshipped there is violence, chaos, ruin, desolation, destruction and falsehood. To take God’s name in vain is to ascribe all these negative traits to Him and to His kingdom of righteousness. The truth is, that in contrast to the effects of Satan’s kingdom, which are desolation, chaos, ruin, destruction, and death, wherever the true God is worshipped there is order, life, love, joy, hope, and happiness.
Many Christians believe they worship the “true God.” But historically, Christians also have worshipped a false god and not the true God. The evidence is in all the destructive behavior Christians have exhibited towards other people. The worshippers of the “true God” will never engage in such destructive behavior towards others.
Notice how “guilt” is somehow involved in this Third Commandment: “for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” Again, we can look at this in two ways, through the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil or through the Tree of Life.
In the first case, we would understand this to mean that the Lord literally will not forgive those that take His name in vain. This, however, goes contrary to what the Bible says elsewhere about God’s forgiveness:
But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness (Romans 4:5, emphasis added).
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6., emphasis added).
If God “justifies the ungodly” and if “Christ died for the ungodly”—which means us, the entire human race that doesn’t know Him—then He must also forgive those that take His name in vain, for it is the ungodly who take His name in vain. We have all been ungodly and have taken God’s name in vain at some point. It is only when we believe what Jesus taught about God’s character that we cease to take His name in vain.
How do we understand the statement then, “the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain?” There is a good and logical explanation to this from the Tree of Life perspective.
Those that have a wrong understanding of God’s character can’t know that God has already forgiven all their sins—they don’t know that God “justifies the ungodly.” Why? Because they believe the lie from the reward and punishment system. They think they are still under condemnation—and they are, but their condemnation is coming from the Accuser, not from God.
Those who don’t know God’s true character don’t know the forgiveness that Jesus came to reveal to all of us. If we gain our knowledge of God’s character from any other source other than Jesus Christ, we are bound to take His name in vain, and it is not a case that God doesn’t forgive us, but a case in which we are deceived by our own false understanding of God and His forgiveness.
If we don’t know God’s true character, we also don’t know that we are already forgiven. God does not hold us guilty through His law of agape love, but if we don’t know what His agape love is like, then we won’t know this. And if we think God operates by reward and punishment, then we will think that God does not forgive us. It is in this way that “the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”
The gods have taught and conditioned humanity through the Knowledge of Good and Evil to look at the Creator as a stern, unforgiving, condemning dictator. Those who listen to the vain words of the gods remain in their guilty state because they don’t know the only true God and therefore cannot see or understand the unconditional forgiveness of God. They don’t understand what grace or unmerited favor means, because in the reward and punishment system everything is based on merit or demerit.
John wrote about Jesus’ grace:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (John 1:14-18, emphasis added).
No one can find rest for their guilty souls outside of Jesus Christ’s gospel, which is the revelation of God’s character of unconditional grace and love—this is the good news. Notice how the apostles described Jesus:
Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance [METANOIA: A CHANGE OF UNDERSTANDING ABOUT GOD] to Israel and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31, emphasis added).
Jesus gives us repentance—again another concept that sadly has been severely misunderstood. The Greek word for repentance—metanoia—means to have a change of mind. Jesus gives us a change of mind in regards to God’s true character. He shows a different, kinder, gentler, more gracious God. He also reveals to us God’s forgiveness of sins, because He teaches us about a forgiving God of grace—a God who has never held anything against us. Through Jesus we know that we are all freely justified, freely forgiven.
Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins (Acts 13:38, emphasis added).
Through Jesus is preached to us that God had always forgiven us.
…to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me’ (Acts 26:18, emphasis added).
The power of Satan keeps us in bondage to guilt and to the condemnation of his reward and punishment system. But God gives us forgiveness, which we are to receive, accept and believe. This forgiveness is not something we need to beg for. It has already been given to us. It was always there; it was always ours. Now, all we need to do is believe it, accept it. It is not given to us according to whether or not we deserve it or merit it, but “according to the riches of His grace”:
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7, emphasis added).
In Jesus we have forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace—not according to our own goodness.
…in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:14, emphasis added).
Paul also puts it this way:
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns (Romans 8:31-34, emphasis added)?
God justifies us—he does not condemn us. Then who indeed is against us? Who indeed is he who condemns us? Paul doesn’t answer his own question, but the Scriptures are full of evidence that there is someone who is against us:
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” (Zechariah 3:1-2, emphasis added)
In this passage Jesus is about to inform Joshua that he has been justified— Joshua as a high priest stands in for the entire human race as its representative. But Satan is standing at Christ’s right hand ready to accuse and condemn Joshua and to stop God’s work of justifying him—the work of removing Joshua’s guilt away through God’s free gift of forgiveness.
Notice what Jesus does: He rebukes Satan and his accusatory spirit, and He goes ahead and clears Joshua of all accusation and guilt. And in Revelation chapter twelve verse ten, we can witness all heaven uttering the following words:
Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down (Revelation 12:10, emphasis added).
The answer to Paul’s question, “who is he who condemns?” is a simple one: it is Satan, the serpent, the great red dragon, and his angels, the many gods. They condemn through their moral law of Good and Evil, just as we do the same on our human level through the same law. We are accusers too. But we make a grave mistake when we ascribe our fallen human character traits onto God. By doing that, we take His name in vain.
Only Jesus has the right to define God, for only Jesus is from above. And Jesus showed a God in whom there is no condemnation toward us—at all.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him (John 3:17).
Lastly, the fourth commandment calls us to remember that God is a Creator, a life-Giver:
4. Exodus 20:8-11: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
The study of the fourth commandment takes us all the way back to the beginning of the earth’s history—to creation week: “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” What is it about the seventh day, the Sabbath, that is so special? Why did God make such a big deal about a day? Should we care about it? If so, why?
Throughout the ages many have kept the Sabbath and even today many are still keeping it without really understanding why. In fact, we would dare say that the Sabbath is pivotal in the cosmic battle that has been taking place between God and Satan, and that if we are not aware of the true significance of the Sabbath, we will always default into keeping the Sabbath in the flesh—through Satan’s system of works from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This means that many keep the Sabbath simply in order to make sure they are keeping the commandments so that they can be saved—to be rewarded—and not because they grasp the deep spiritual meaning of the Sabbath. Thus, most are not keeping the Sabbath “in spirit and in truth.”
At the end of the week of creation, God said: “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work.”
There are seven words here that we would like to focus on and explore. They are: “remember,” “sabbath day,” “holy,” “work,” “seventh day,” “rested,” and “blessed.” Once we dissect these words, we will begin to see a picture filled with the true beauty of the Sabbath.
What are we to remember? What is God calling us to do when He says “remember”? According to the Ancient Hebrew Lexicon (AHL), the word “remember” means “a recalling of events of the past or to act upon a past event.” Thus, here the thing we are to remember from the past is the Sabbath day, which again according to AHL means “the ceasing of work or activity in order to rest.”
This takes us right back to the story of creation in the Book of Genesis where God created the heavens and the earth in six days and rested on the seventh day. This is what we are to remember: that last day, that seventh day, the day at the very end of the six days of work.
The Commandment says that we are to “keep the sabbath holy,” and according to Strong’s Concordance, “holy” means “to be (causatively make, pronounce or observe as) clean (ceremonially or morally).”
The words “clean” and “holy” in the Bible convey the same meaning: they are adjectives that describe something or someone that is absolutely pure, without mixture, completely untainted. Furthermore, they also convey the same meaning as the word “light” as used by John in 1 John, chapter one, verse five: “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”
The same message is given through the symbolism of a spotless lamb, which is holy and clean, without any blemishes. If we juxtapose the Tree of Life against this concept, we will see that it also is pure, clean, unmixed, spotless, without blemish, having “no darkness at all.”
That the words “holy” and “unholy” are synonymous to the words “clean” and “unclean” is made evident in the Book of Ezekiel:
Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them (Ezekiel 11:26, emphasis added).
Here, through Hebrew parallelism, “holy” is shown to be the same as “clean,” and “unholy” the same as “unclean.” The difference between the “holy” and the “unholy” and the “clean” and the “unclean” can be seen when we compare the two Trees in the midst of the Garden. The Tree of Life was pure, with no mixture, clean; but the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil has a mixture of opposites—Good and Evil. It cannot be said of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that it has “no darkness at all.” Thus, it is impure, mixed, “unholy,” “unclean.”
In the Bible, “images” or “idols” are characterized as “unclean”:
You will also defile the covering of your images of silver,
And the ornament of your molded images of gold.
You will throw them away as an unclean thing;
You will say to them, “Get away” (Isaiah 30:22).
Likewise, the prophet Zechariah says:
“It shall be in that day,” says the Lord of hosts, “that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they shall no longer be remembered. I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land’ (Zechariah 13:2, emphasis added).
Jesus Himself used this language when He spoke of demons:
And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease (Matthew 10:1, emphasis added).
The Complete Word Study Dictionary adds on a new layer of understanding when it says the following about the word “holy”:
The verb, in the simple stem, declares the act of setting apart, being holy (i.e., withdrawing someone or something from profane or ordinary use).
So we see that the word “holy” also means to “set apart.” Thus, if the Sabbath is holy, God set the sabbath “apart.” But what did He set it apart from? It is clear that God set the Sabbath from the other six days of creation week, which means that if the seventh day is holy and clean, then the first six days leading to the seventh day of creation are unholy and unclean.
At this juncture, the reader may ask, “How can you say that the first six days of creation are unholy and unclean when sin had not even surfaced yet on earth?” But had it not? Hadn’t Satan already rebelled in heaven? Wasn’t his Tree already in the Garden before Adam and Eve ate of it? We must look beyond the literal meaning of the week of creation if we are to understand its true meaning. Yes, it was and is a literal week but there is much more to it. There is a greater symbolic meaning attached to that week as we will soon find out.
No work was to be done on the seventh day either, while on the six days work was to be done. Furthermore, the seventh day was to be a rest from the work done on the previous six days. What is the significance of all these things? What does it mean to keep the Sabbath day holy? Does it simply mean to cease from all work and labor and to physically rest? Or is there a greater spiritual significance to it?
The Bible indicates that there is much more to this than simply resting. Consider what Paul wrote about this in the Book of Hebrews:
Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said:
“So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’ ” although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.”
Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said:
“Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:1-11, emphasis added).
Paul’s focus here is on one thing and one thing only: he is focused on the act of entering into “rest” and on ceasing from “works,” and he compares all this to the creation week, where the first six days were meant for work and the seventh day for rest. Can you see that Paul is using creation week as a type, an example, as a template for a much greater spiritual reality? Can you see that if we get stuck in the type, we will miss the greater lesson, which is the antitype?
Paul also makes a very interesting point: he states that Joshua, who had led the children of Israel into the Promised Land, had not “given them rest.” And his logic is that if Joshua had given them rest “then He [GOD] would not afterward have spoken of another day.” If they had already received that rest then there would not be “another day” in which they would receive that “rest.”
Furthermore, Paul gives us the reason why the people could not enter into that rest that God wanted them to enter: “the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” It was lack of faith, unbelief, which Paul characterized a few verses later as “disobedience”—”Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.”
We ask the question: why couldn’t Joshua give them “rest”? The answer is that Joshua was only a type; he was not the antitype. Jesus, the antitype, is the only one who can give us that “rest.” As He said:
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28, emphasis added).
Notice that Jesus is offering “rest” from “labor,” from work, which is a heavy, burdensome load. Is it a coincidence that Jesus’ words harmonize completely with what we have been talking about here? It is no coincidence, Friends; Jesus knew exactly what He was talking about. He knew that “works,” Satan’s system of reward and punishment, was a problem for us human beings. He knew it all the way from the beginning when He exposed the problem at creation week by showing us that during six days, we would work but on the seventh day we would rest.
We hope that it has become quite clear that keeping the Sabbath does not necessarily mean just that literal resting from a hard week at work, or performing age-old traditions and rituals on the seventh day. There is a much greater spiritual application and meaning to all of this, one which affects every human being.